Sometimes natural ability and instinct are more important than experience.
And in the case of Cornell weak-side safety Phil Rigueur, this is most certainly the case. Consider the positions he has played in his football career: running back, quarterback, cornerback and safety.
Though Phil got his start playing Pee Wee football back in grade school, his football education came closer to home.
“My brother taught me the game. I learned a lot from him. When I was in sixth grade he was in high school, so we used to go watch him play,” Rigueur said.
Since his brother played fullback, Phil had a natural desire to play in the offensive backfield.
“I was always inclined to play running back, which actually was what I played in high school. Then I played quarterback my senior year,” he said.
Though Phil enjoyed playing offense, he knew to play at the college level he was going to have to hit people. But due to his athletic nature, Phil already had some experience with defense.
“Most college football players play both ways in high school, so I played quarterback in high school, but I also played safety. So I was used to the defensive side of the ball,” he explained, adding, “Coming out of high school, most schools were recruiting me as a defensive back, because I had quick feet. I always new that I would play defense coming here. I mean a 5-9 quarterback doesn’t sit well in college.”
And this transition has been quite successful for both Phil and the football team. As a freshman, in the eight games he saw action, he made seven tackles from his cornerback position. As a sophomore, the Industrial Labor Relations student made 19 tackles despite missing the final seven games with a broken ankle.
He was expected to be a leader in the secondary last year, but decided to take the year off for personal reasons.
But he returned to the team last spring, and has been expected to start at the safety spot since last spring.
“When he came back in the spring we moved him inside [to safety]. He handled that move really well. He has improved ever since we did that,” head coach Pete Mangurian said.
“That was a move I had to make. It wasn’t a hard transition, it was just me making the right reads and the right calls,” Phil said of the switch from corner to safety.
And Phil’s presence and athletic ability have had a positive effect on the defense, according to defensive lineman Bryan Sacco.
“It gives us some confidence having him back there, knowing he is going to make plays,” he said.
Mangurian also thinks that the knack for the ball Phil has makes him such a valuable defender.
“Ever since we’ve been here he’s the guy that ends up with an interception, a tipped ball. And you wonder how he does it. Well, he just has great instinct,” the coach said.
Rigueur took a crack at explaining his seemingly innate ability.
“I don’t know, I just react to a given situation. It could also just be luck. I feel as though the coaches give us a chance to be in the right spot to make plays. It just so happens that I’ve been in the right spot when it is called for,” Phil said.
And Phil thinks that the defense should do well this year, especially against the pass.
“It’s going to be tough for teams to gain yards or make big plays on us [through the air],” Phil said.
“He’s got real football smarts and is a leader out there,” Sacco added.
“Right now I’m really pleased with where he is, what he’s done, how he’s working. I hope he continues,” Mangurian declared. “If he does, he’s going to make us a better team.”
Archived article by J.V. Anderton